This multi-part series will document my time spent in Jordan while a participant on a Fulbright-Hays Groups Project Abroad (GPA) program. I was selected along with 11 fellow teachers from North Texas to spend 4-weeks traveling in and around Amman, Jordan where we will study the country, politics, religion, education and culture. With this information we will develop curriculum to share with teachers and students once we return to the United States.
I won't be able to update this blog with my professional images while I am traveling due to technology limitations; therefore, my phone images will have to suffice. After I return in August I will post my favorite images from the trip in a separate blog post.
Now that I'm on my fifth post, it's time to be completely frank. Travel is hard, very hard. The constant unfamiliarity of locations, the lack of personal freedom and mobility, the language barrier, putting up with people I don't normally associate with etc. I reached my breaking point yesterday and it's been a struggle to remain positive and friendly when all I want to do is crawl into a small corner and sleep. I've been traveling since the end of June and the exhaustion has set in. I keep dreaming of my own bed. I think that means that I am definitely not cut out to be a nomad. Okay, enough of my whining, back to what I've been up to...
On Saturday we visited the city of As-Salt. It is a lovely place that is situated along three hills with spectacular picturesque views. We spent the day taking a walking tour of the old city. The Salt Development Corporation came up with the idea of an eco-museum. The concept is to see the whole city as a museum, focusing on integrating people's traditional lifestyle with the cultural property. I love that the focus is on people owning their culture and using this model to help preserve their cultural resources. This type of Eco-tourism allows development to happen in a sustainable way.
The only downside of taking a walking tour of the city was that it had to be over 100 degrees and within minutes I was drenched in sweat and exhausted. I have gotten incredibly good at recognizing the signs of dehydration in my body. I keep expecting that one of these days my body will go into revolt for the constant dehydration I have forced upon it over the last month--but so far my body has held up.
My favorite part of the day was eating lunch in a historic house. The woman of the house served us a traditional dish called Magloubah. This dish has layers of rice, chicken and roasted vegetables. Magloubah means "upside down," because the pot is flipped upside down onto the plate when it is served. The food was delicious and our host was so gracious and lovely.
Sunday, we had an amazing day touring a school, visiting with a political watch-dog NGO and eating lunch with an organization called the Jordanian Hashemite Fund for Human Development (JOHUD). The school was created for Gifted and Talented Students and it was fun to talk with some of the teachers and students. Everytime I visit with students (in any country) I realize how similar they are to the students I teach. The students at this school are doing some incredibly interesting research and scientific projects.
Our final stop to JOHUD was wonderful. Besides the delicious lunch they served, we were all amazed at the work the center is doing for children of the neighborhood. The program was developed to address the needs of the community and provide training and services for refugees. Even though it was summer break, they had a number of programs going and so we met students from ages 5-24. This was also our first opportunity to meet with some refugee children. The two main focuses of the center are women empowerment and youth engagement. It was beautiful to hear the story of two little boys who became best friends over a tree. The Jordanian boy had planted a tree on the grounds of the center and the Syrian refugee boy would come and help him take care of the tree and that is how they became best friends.
As a group we've been wanting to meet with children and refugees the whole trip and today we were able to do both which was really great.
One individual I forgot to mention with my previous post was that we were able to meet with the famous Jordanian cartoonist Emad Hajjaj (see webiste here). I was fascinated to hear about how he became a cartoonist and got his art degree (much to the chagrin of his family). As a political cartoonist, his goal is to entertain, but also to shed light on important issues. He doesn't let the threats of violence and death stop him from tackling sensitive topics (ie: Honor Killings). He was refreshingly honest with us and had a great sense of humor.
I have the feeling that tomorrow will be a pretty epic day on the trip, so I will head to bed and I will write more in a few days.